Where and why of responsive web design, with examples:
It is vitally important for you company to have a great website, as a study by Compuware has found that almost 57% of users will never recommend a company with a bad website, and over 40% of people will use a competitor’s site simply because it has a better design. Considering that more and more people are using mobiles to access internet, companies that do not have a good mobile website will suffer.
A Brief Evolution of Web Design
Website design started in the early 1990’s. At the beginning all the websites were text based. The text was written in a single column using HTML. It was during these times, in 1994, that the World Wide Web consortium was formed. In the mid-1990’s table based website designing allowed for a website to contain multiple columns. The content could now be organized in a better manner.
Several new design improvements were made. Images could be added to the website. Flash was introduced in 1996. The late 1990’s saw an increased use of flash to make websites more attractive. Animation and navigational features based on flash started to appear in websites. It was during this time that PHP3 was released, in 1998.
Semantic web is basically a web design movement whose aim is to increase the capacity of machines in understanding websites to human levels. The XML language is a step in the right direction towards realizing this goal.
Mobile web is another aspect of web designing that has been growing very rapidly. So far, we’ve had to mostly make separate websites for each and every device type there is. Mobile phone screens are smaller and have lower resolution than computer screens.
The same website will not work on both in an optimum and presentable manner. That is why separate WAP sites are made for mobile phone screens. However, with the increasing number of devices with web access, and all with varying physical dimensions and specifications, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make multiple websites to serve all the customers.
Analysts at Morgan Stanley claim that the world is currently going through fifth technological revolution since the last 50 years. This one is based on the evolution of mobile internet. They also claim that the number of people using mobile devices to access internet will cross those using computers by 2015.
Need for Responsive Web Design
Besides mobile phones and computers, these days internet can also be accessed via e-readers, netbooks, iPads, tablets, televisions and gaming consoles. It is just not feasible to make websites for each and every one of them. Even now, according to Mongoose Metrics, only around 9% of the total numbers of required mobile websites are up and running.
Won’t it be simpler to have just a single website that could work everywhere? Responsive web design technology does exactly this.
What is Responsive Web Design?
A website that is designed to established standards laid down for responsive web designing will be able to adopt its design and layout to fit the specifications of the device calling it. It does this by dynamically adopting to different screen sizes and by reformatting the positioning and look of the constituent elements of the website.
So what may appear to be a website with large images spread through three columns on a computer screen, will appear to have smaller images in a single column on a mobile screen. All of this does not need multiple codes written for each type of device. A single set of code which accepts various specification parameters from the device will do the job. CSS3 is used to give the generated website the desired look and feel.
The Core Elements
Responsive web design is built around three main elements. They are:
Fluid images, and
The general practice in web design is to employ fixed width layouts. It means that the page and its constituent elements have a fixed size and width and positioned around the center. Liquid layouts offer us a greater advantage with the increasing number of devices with web access. A liquid layout expands with the page.
A better version of the same is the fluid grid layout. A fixed width layout is based on rigid pixel values while the liquid layout is concerned with percentage values. A fluid grid layout is based on proportions. When a particular layout is either squeezed or stretched then apart from altering their sizes, all the constituent elements of the page will alter their widths with respect to each other.
No web page is complete without some images. However, introducing fixed width photos into a flexible grid layout may result in the photo overflowing from the container and spoiling the entire page if the container is not big enough. An image is made into a fluid image by putting some constraints on it, such as constraints prohibiting it from exceeding the size of its container.
Fluid grid layouts are very important for responsive web development, but there are other issues to consider. If the width of the device becomes too narrow, like in a small mobile phone, the website design can fall apart. This is where media queries come in. These media queries are based in CSS3 and allow us to not only target the particular device classes but physical characteristics of the device which is rendering the web site.
Benefits of using Responsive Web Design
You may or may not be familiar with the concept of responsive web design. But one thing is for certain – your website needs it to serve the growing number of customers who use devices other than the computer to access the internet.
Responsive web design allows for optimal viewing of your website across all devices. Here are the top advantages to be gained out of using responsive web design.
With responsive web design you’ll be making your website accessible to people 24/7. A lot of your customers will constantly be on the move. In fact, this is one reason why people are turning towards mobile devices to access the web. If your website is not accessible to this sizable chunk of customers or potential customers, then your business has a lot to lose and your competitors have a lot to gain. Don’t let that happen to your business.
Websites meant for mobile devices are usually very Spartan and do not have advanced navigational features, such as in websites for computers. Your customers do not want to waste time in looking for features in a poorly designed mobile website. They’d rather go over to competitor’s website. Responsive web design helps you to prevent such a scenario by making viewing a site from a mobile device almost as efficient a process as viewing the same site from a computer.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is another great reason to go for responsive web design. In any website, one needs links to help the visitors get to the right part of the website. However, if separate websites were made for each kind of device out there – one for computers and laptops, another for tablets, another for mobiles etc, we’d have a lot of links on our hands. Each such link has to be redirected via the server and will add unnecessary load on the server. Additionally, each such link also needs to be specific to the user agent in order to get the visitors to the right part of the website. This will adversely affect the website speed and increase maintenance hassles. Responsive web design helps us to eliminate this issue by having just one website and just one set of links to handle.